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Tag: Japan

Month of Letters: Day 24

I’m going to reiterate again that I will be glad when this Month of Letters is over. I know the purpose of this is to slow down and communicate with people using a slower medium, but this only works if you unplug from everything else. There’s a reason why I leave writing postcards to the weekend–the rest of the week is just filled with work stuff that seems to multiply overnight.

Anyways, first postcard on this list is going to someone in France who likes Japanese stuff. I’ve also been to Tō-ji Temple before, I particularly remember the visit because it was one of the monthly flea market days and it was raining. The second postcard is to a person in Taiwan who likes butterflies. I had obtained this postcard at a rummage sale–it’s pretty old since the attraction it’s from no longer exists (according to Google, it was replaced with Legoland). And the third postcard is going to someone in Belarus who requested this sent in an envelope. To be honest, I found their profile a little confusing–I think they were requesting postcards that would match some kind of romantic coffeehouse aesthetic theme. I don’t have any coffee postcards on hand right now, so I just picked something else. Hopefully this random illustration will work.

Month of Letters: Day 20

For a “happy mail” tag, I chose to send a postcard from the Higuchi Yuko postcard box as well as a number of items I have not scanned in (such as stickers, stamps, and miniature art cards). The whole package is going to Germany. Second is a fantasy tag postcard going to Russia to a person who likes mermaids. Third is another tag, this time the theme was to send a postcard that is not from the country it was sent from. So I decided on a postcard I bought when I had been on vacation in Kyoto (I may have to do a series of posts on this at a later time). It is of Sanjūsangen-dō or the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. I actually did visit this place and in some ways, it’s as impressive as it sounds. That postcard is going to Portugal. And lastly, is an illustrated postcard of lemurs going to another person in Germany who likes lemurs.

Postcards from the Last Six Months

I spent most of this afternoon sorting through the gigantic pile of postcards that I had accumulated for the past six months. I have a system for sorting–first I sort by size. This makes it easier for me to put protective plastic sleeves on them without switching between different sizes with every other one. Then I sort them again by country and file them accordingly in boxes. Below, I’ve documented some of my progress. (This is also in a Twitter thread.)

The stack:

Austria:

Australia:

Belgium:

Belarus:

Brazil:

Canada:

China:

Czech Republic:

Estonia:

Finland:

France:

Germany:

Great Britain:

Hong Kong:

Hungary:

Indonesia:

Ireland:

Israel:

Italy:

Japan:

Lithuania:

Luxembourg:

Macau:

Netherlands:

Norway:

Poland:

Portugal:

Russia:

Spain:

Switzerland:

Taiwan:

Ukraine:

USA:

The TBR of “Shame”

A recent YouTube video that popped up for me as a recommendation was “Pile of Shame Reading Vlog || Books with Emily Fox.  It’s not so much the books that are depicted in the video but the idea that everyone has books lying around that they’ve started but not finished that had piqued my interest. I have a lot of books which I’ve started and not finished, but I thought I’d list some of them here. For the sake of not boring everyone to tears, I’ve limited this list to non-fiction, plus one fiction book that is masquerading as non-fiction.

  • Jewels: A Secret History by Victoria Finlay – I’m actively reading this one right now. Each section of the book is divided up by gem by increasing hardness on the Mohs scale. It’s a mix of history, science, folklore, and personal anecdotes all rolled into a mix that somehow works. It’s all very interesting and easy reading.
  • Shinto: A History by Helen Hardacre – I bought this book before going on my trip to Japan last year because I knew I would be visiting a lot of temples and shrines. Unfortunately, I’m not even halfway through it yet. The writing is very academic, but I’m still interested. I’m reading this in parallel with Jewels, but this one is quite a bit more slow going.
  • Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen – This book is so relevant with COVID-19 right now, but I actually started this book much earlier. I really do like Quammen’s writing, but at the moment, between reading papers for work on infectious disease and this book–I’d prioritize the papers. And while I find the subject fascinating, reading this just feels like more work at the moment. If you find this interesting too but don’t have time to read this, I recommend watching Joe Scott’s interview with David Quammen.
  • Feeding a Thousand Souls: Women, Ritual, and Ecology in India – An Exploration of the Kolam by Vijaya Nagarajan – I bought this book right after hearing the author speak about her experience with the ritual of kolam in India. It bears a striking resemblance to other magical customs around the world using signs to invoke protection and luck. I’ve never heard about kolam before this but I’m always up for learning about superstition and folklore and how it relates to the societies that come up with them.
  • The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair – This book is divided up by different colors with lots of trivia about those particular colors. I got halfway through and then got distracted by other things. It’s supposed to be a quick read, so I need to get on this.
  • Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova – This is a mix of memoir and travelogue, reporting and essay. The author travels back to where she spent her childhood, in the confluence of Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece. There’s some absolutely wonderful writing in here and I can’t wait to get back to this one once I’ve finished the books I’m actively reading.
  • Cyclonopedia: Complicity by Anonymous Materials by Reza Negarestani – This is a horror novel masquerading as someone’s lost thesis. It’s weird and bonkers at the same time and definitely not something you can breeze through in one sitting. There’s something really compelling about it too, so I’ll be slowly inching towards the end no matter how long it takes.
  • Magic and Mystery in Tibet by Alexandra David-Neel – I am very much aware that this is viewed through the eyes of a French woman in the 1920s, but considering her scholarly achievements in Asia and Buddhism, she’s possibly a better narrator than, say, a random white dude barging into a culture they have no experience with. This has apparently served as inspiration for a number of writers in the Beat Generation so it would be good background reading.

Starting Small

It’s been a while since I’ve posted regularly in this blog. I don’t want to have a resolution saying that I will start posting regularly from now on, because let’s face it, most resolutions end up as failures as the rest of life gets in the way and attempts at establishing new habits get broken. But, perhaps I’ll start small with bits and pieces of observations rather than starting big with essays encompassing large ideas and perhaps that will make it easier to go on.

Anyways, I wanted to share my latest binge watching: Begin Japanology and Japanology Plus (it’s actually the same program, but the name changed). I discovered this on YouTube because the site began recommending this to me after I had been watching other documentary videos. I love these types of videos because it tells about different cultures through seemingly very simple things like home appliances and umbrellas as well as the more obvious cultural markers like food, literature, and religion.

I have to admit, part of the fun of watching this particular show on YouTube is reading the comments. (Yes, yes, I know. Never read the comments. But I can’t help myself.) It’s usually overwhelmingly positive for the main host, Peter Barakan, who has a very calm, British demeanor. But the commenters have such a hate-on for the host of the “Plus” segments, Matt Alt. It’s probably because Alt’s character is so obviously that of an exuberant American that for whatever reason, fans of the show find too jarring in comparison to the subject matter and the other host. I personally don’t get the hate (Alt definitely has a different style of presenting, but I’ve seen worse), but I do find it amusing that in the comments of the later episodes, the haters reluctantly post that he’s “getting better”. Maybe they don’t want to admit that Alt is growing on them.

Postcard #1 – Japanese Fireworks

Okay, so this isn’t the first postcard I’ve ever received, but it is the first postcard on top of the pile I’ve been keeping of all the postcards I’ve gotten from actual postcard swaps. I figured I might as well scan them in and post them to this blog so I’ll have a digital copy in case I lose them for some reason.

This one is from a NaNoWriMo participant in Japan. I’ve never been to Japan, but I’d like to visit one day. Not live there, though. If you’ve followed me through Twitter, you’d already know in no uncertain terms my opinion on the culture’s work habits.

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